JONESBORO — Craighead County taxpayers will pay an additional $315,186.50 this year in salaries for county employees.

The 2021 county budget reflects $10,513,906.50, compared to last year’s $10,198,720.

Craighead County Judge Marvin Day said the county was prepared for the increase in cost.

“We went into it knowing what The Johanson Group recommendations were and how much it would cost. We knew exactly what that number would be,” he said.

Day said there are still several county positions that are not quite at fair market value.

“I hope the quorum court continues to move forward and get us to that midpoint,” he said.

County employees received raises across the board, a measure approved by the quorum court during its Dec. 14 meeting.

Day said most of the raises were between 3 percent and 6 percent and went into effect Jan. 1. Day said the raises were based on recommendations by the Johanson Group, which conducted an independent salary analysis of all county employees.

“This is the first time that Craighead County has ever used that company,” Day said, noting he was aware of other towns and cities that have utilized the services. “For me, you have to look back at history. The quorum court wanted to do the right thing and be fair to the employee and the taxpayer.”

Day said, in his opinion, Johanson did a great job examining the positions and deciding what the fair market value was for each one.

According to documentation submitted to The Sun which listed county employee’s names, salary information for 2020, and expected salary information for 2021, some employees in the Craighead County Sheriff’s Department received increases around the 9 percent and 10 percent mark.

Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd said those increases were not part of the county’s salary increase but were instead within the department itself. For example, Boyd said Craighead County Deputy Cody Ladner received a $4,308 increase in salary compared to last year.

“(Deputy Ladner) was new, and he started out at a lower rate,” Boyd said. “Once (employees) finish the academy, they receive full pay.”

Boyd said the base pay for deputies is set at $43,000.

“When someone hires in, they hire in at $3,000 less than the base pay,” he said. “After certification, and one year of employment, (employees) receive a $1,500 increase.”

It’s a step process with the deputies, he said.

Other employees within the Craighead County Sheriff’s department reflect a decrease in salary of about $282. After some discussion, Day realized those numbers did not include shift differentials and stipends allotted to deputies based on special certifications.

The Craighead County Quorum Court will be passing a resolution to amend those errors during Monday night’s quorum court meeting.

“We are passing a resolution to correct salary errors,” he said. “It was a math error that had to do with shift differentials for three employees.”

Craighead County Election Coordinator Jennifer Clack said she had no idea until the budget was passed that a wage increase was in the works.

“I am very grateful for my job here, whether we had gotten that (raise) or not,” she said. “I know there are a lot of people that have put themselves at risk this year.”

Although attempts were made to contact several other county employees about their thoughts on the raises, there was no one available for comment.

In addition to data on what salaries would be for the year, the salary report indicated there are several employee vacancies in multiple county departments.

The sheriff’s department alone has a vacancy for a detention center sergeant and seven officer slots. Day said that’s an area where the county has really been struggling.

“It is my understanding we are really having trouble hiring people at the jail,” he said. “After speaking with Sheriff Marty Boyd, as much negativity that has been in law enforcement on a national level, it has spilled over to the local level.”

Day said the last time the county advertised for positions in the Craighead County Sheriff’s Department, four applications were received.

Craighead County also has several positions open, including a road mechanic, a payroll clerk in the county clerk’s office, a building maintenance person, a deputy land records clerk, and an administrative position in the county assessor’s office.

Day said those are just a matter of timing and finding the right candidate.

“With what payroll has been through with Kade Holliday, the county’s human resources director Lacey Rush has been helping,” Day said.